Party gave out fake ID and instructions on how to survey households in Republic
Sinn Fein provided party members in the Republic with fake ID badges and instructions on how to misrepresent themselves as pollsters to survey households before and during elections.
An internal training manual reveals how activists were given detailed instructions on how to pose as researchers working for a polling company to covertly question voters.
The 77-page document set out how Sinn Féin members should ask voters about their intentions under the guise of the “Irish Market Research Agency” (IMRA), which does not exist.
The Irish Independent asked the other political parties whether their members had ever posed as market researchers to collect information on voters.
Fianna Fáil said it was “not aware” of its members doing so and the Labour Party said covert polling had not been done with the “knowledge or with the sanction” of party headquarters.
Fine Gael said the majority of polling it used was carried out by private research companies.
“Occasionally, polling would have been carried out by the organisation locally without direct supervision of headquarters,” it added.
The Social Democrats and People Before Profit said they had not posed as market researchers.
Sinn Féin’s Election Toolkit Dublin 2015 included sample ballot papers featuring an IMRA logo along with a page of printable ‘authorisation’ badges for the fake opinion poll firm. The ID badges falsely describe IMRA as an “independent organisation that is dedicated to the compiling of accurate, political and social information in Ireland”.
“Properly designed and implemented opinion polling can be a very accurate and a useful intelligence tool for those running the political strategy side of the election campaign,” the document said.
The election manual gave Sinn Féin members detailed instructions on how research should be conducted when posing as the fake research firm.
These included getting a clipboard, some sample ballots and an ID badge for the fake polling company. Sinn Féin canvassers were told to tell people they surveyed that they are “casually employed” by IMRA for one day only. They were to say the non-existent polling company was based in Dublin.
The information collated from the face-to-face surveys of voters was broken down by electoral divisions and entered in spreadsheets for analysis.
The election manual said the party was “of the view that the greater the amount of electoral, political and demographic data available to us, then the greater the opportunity there is for Sinn Féin to shape and mould its message to the electorate”.
“It gives us the opportunity to micro-message to several sectors of our electorate, to adopt our capacity for best effect, and it allows us to expose our opponents in their own backyard,” it added.
The manual said Sinn Féin used this type of “organised opinion polling” in several election campaigns since 2010 and most were “well within the margin of error when it came to results”.
It said opinion polling was carried out ahead of the Donegal South West by-election in 2010 and 36% of the people surveyed said they would vote for Pearse Doherty. Mr Doherty, now Sinn Fein deputy leader, got just under 40% of the votes.
Ahead of the 2011 general election, members carried out a covert opinion poll of Louth that found 25% of people saying they would vote for Gerry Adams two weeks before polling day. The former party leader got almost 22% of the vote on election day.
In response to queries about the fake polling company, a Sinn Féin spokesperson said: “All parties conduct private local opinion polling. The document you are referring to is many years old and these days we generally use professional companies for this service.”
Sinn Féin said the information it collected from the opinion poll was anonymous and not entered into the party’s controversial voter database, the Abú system.
The party did not respond to questions asking whether it believed it was ethical for its members to misrepresent themselves as workers from a research firm when knocking on doors and engaging with voters.